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Full text of "A history of Persia"

488                 HISTORY OF PERSIA                CHAP.
public life." l There was no great council of the nobles
to control the monarch, such as existed among the
Parthians ; nor was there an Ecclesiastical Council. And
• yet the power of the Shah was limited. The Sultan of
Turkey is acknowledged to be the Khalifa, or Vice-
Regent of the Prophet, and as such claims the religious
veneration of his subjects. But the Shahs of Persia,
descended from a Turkish tribe, can advance no such
claim ; and the religious power is vested in the Mujtahids
of Kerbela and Najaf, who, it is to be noted, live outside
Persia. As the agitation against the Tobacco R£gie
proved, their influence is a power to be reckoned with.
It is difficult to define the exact limitations to which
the Shah was subject. In case of a rebellion or of a
conspiracy against the throne, the monarch could put
to death hundreds of his subjects and confiscate their
property. Again, members of the royal family, ministers
of State and all public officers and dependents were
entirely in the power of the Shah, who could sentence
them to punishment, which was as a rule carried out
immediately. In other cases where the death penalty
could be inflicted law and custom had to be observed.
The taxes were collected, concessions were granted,
and presents were offered, all for the sole benefit of the
Shah and his courtiers, whose extravagance kept Persia poor.
On the other hand, the monarch for his own sake was
bound to maintain an army to protect his throne. En-
lightened or religious Shahs, too, have spent large sums
in building bridges and caravanserais and in erecting
mosques and shrines.
The Kajar dynasty has maintained an armed force
which, owing to corruption and the extinction of military
spirit in the upper classes, has become hopelessly in-
efficient; so much that it hardly counted in the recent
revolution. Few if any public works can be set to the
credit of the Kajar dynasty.
His Duties.—The duties of the Shah were heavy.
Daily he received his principal ministers, who brought
him reports and .took the royal orders. After this he
1 Curzon i. 433.